By Martin Wakaba – a football agent and the owner of Football Puzzles
Inequality in sports has been an aspect that endangers the existence and relevance of the activities involved. Of great concern is that this form of inequality targets the female gender through calculated instances that propel men into further stardom even when they do not deserve it. Sometimes, these occurrences are at their blatant worst in that more deserving women are overlooked at the expense of men in sports awards. The occurrence stems from the perennial perception that most sports are dominated by men and that most of these sporting activities are seen as a sport for men. The total media reporting for women sporting activities covers less than five percent. This undersized intensity and level of coverage is further witnessed in sports that are deemed to be more masculine, for instance boxing, gymnastics and swimming. The fact isn’t helped by the fact that women form a lesser number of the sports. A case for example is the BBC Sports Personality of the Year where the male journalists are the majority, and therefore a more likely platform for men to exercise their “thoughts” on the process of nominating and picking the eventual winner. The BBC Sports Personality of the year award is a tribute and form of recognition towards the British sportsmen who have achieved the most in their respective fields. Open to British residents, the event takes place in December each year. Even though the public votes for the eventual winner, there is a pre-selected shortlist that determines who becomes the winner. Consequently, this situation leads to various questions. There arises the pertinent question; are the nominations for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in tandem with the public interest as regards demands for male sports or are they guided by the marketing blitz associated with the commercialization of sports?
Despite women participating in sporting activities in their numbers, the public rarely hears about their exploits due to uniformed modes of reporting. Prior to 2011, the England’s women rugby team had reached the finals of three consecutive world cups but these ladies have never been nominated for the bonanza despite their performances on the field. Languid and uninspiring performances by Amir Khan in boxing landed him a slot in the ten-man shortlist for the award of the year in 2011. Likewise, bouts of lethargic performances by Andy Murray in tennis made sure that he clinched a place in the shortlist. This is despite their below-par performances in their respective sporting activities of boxing and tennis. The anger and dismay that greeted the composition of the ten-man shortlist was understandable – this was a year when British women excelled in various sporting activities yet none of them had even been shortlisted for the final award. Memorable and triumphant actions in swimming could not guarantee Keri-Anne Payne and Rebecca Adlington any slots in the nominations. In 2012, the England women’s cricket team was the world champions while the England women’s rugby was defending the title of rugby queens during the Six Nations tournament. However, the shortlist for the nomination of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards did little to appreciate women in these triumphant teams of cricket and rugby.
Despite women participating in sporting activities in their numbers, the public rarely hears about their exploits due to uniformed modes of reporting. Prior to 2011, the England’s women rugby team had reached the finals of three consecutive world cups but these ladies have never been nominated for the bonanza despite their performances on the field.
But the problem isn’t only being with the clearly skewed shortlist in favour of men. The situation reflects the need for sportswomen to get fair coverage in the media as their male counterparts. The nominations as regards most awards highlight the problem that few sportswomen get the relevant coverage as regards their performances and success in various sporting fields. Most of the time, sportsmen are covered extensively even at the expense of women. In this regard, as an award that is sponsored by a media outlet, the organizers and the subsequent nominations would tend to follow a similar script of systematically leaving out sportswomen even when they have achieved lots of success. The inexcusable exclusion and gender discrimination in sports is endemic. For instance, the England women football team hardly gets any form of sponsorship and fame, all this coupled with little pay. On the other hand, while the England men football team may not be as successful as the female team, the media ensures a sustained campaign for them and ensures that biasness in reporting escalates to new levels. While the underachieving men hog all the limelight in the media, their successful female counterparts are dumped in the back pages, that is if they are fortunate enough to make appear in the publications. These inequalities are just indicative of the media bias that extends to the nominations for the various awards.
Despite the achievements of the women in sporting activities, the nomination and eventual awarding of the various awards follows a script that encourages gender discrimination. While various aspects such as the low coverage of women sporting activities can be deemed to have led to the blatant bias, the disregard of the achievement of women underlines a system that is hell-bent on choking the success of women in sports. The low percentage of women who have won different awards before only lends credence to the discrimination of women in sports. Moreover, as showcased by the 2011 all-male nominations for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards meant that the wave of gender discrimination in sports had reached a new level as shown by the public uproar and backlash that ensued. While various women had attained glory in their respective sporting activities, none was nominated in the ten-man shortlist, thereby underlining the widespread occurrences of unconcealed bias against women. The shortlists for the same awards in other years have followed the same modus operandi as male candidates dominate the list with some few women to “top up” the shortlist. The most disturbing thing about it is that while deserving women are totally left out of the shortlist, perennially underachieving men get nominated to the prestigious awards.